Ex-Mega Financial chair released on bail in money laundering case

Mckinney Tsai (???), former chairman of Mega Financial Holding Co. (????), the Taiwanese financial institution hit by a money-laundering investigation, was released by prosecutors on NT$3 million (US$94,937) bail late Friday after being summoned for questioning for his role in the scandal.

While prosecutors declined to disclose the details about the questioning of Tsai in their probe into the bank's operations, local media reported on Saturday that the banker had been aware of violations by a New York branch of Mega Financial's Mega International Commercial Bank (???) of U.S. anti-money laundering law during his tenure, but he failed to take action to deal with the problem.

Tsai was barred from leaving the country after his release.

Wang Chi-pang (???), former chief secretary of Mega Financial, who used to be an aide to Tsai, was released on NT$2 million bail and barred from leaving Taiwan after being questioned by prosecutors.

Tsai and Wang have been named defendants in the money laundering case, according to prosecutors.

On Aug. 19, the state of New York's Department of Financial Service (DFS) slapped a US$180 million fine on Mega Bank after identifying "a number of suspicious transactions" between its New York and Panama branches.

Mega Bank has been accused of lacking law compliance since the bank failed to follow the law to report to U.S. authorities about the suspicious transactions made by its clients.

The transactions in question at the Mega Bank New York branch took place in 2012 and were uncovered by the DFS during an examination conducted between January and March 2015.

Mega Bank is the first Taiwanese bank to face such a penalty for violation of U.S. anti-money laundering laws.

After the heavy fine was imposed on Mega Bank, the government-invested banking group's governance and management were called into question, prompting the Cabinet to set up a task force to investigate the case to find out who should be held accountable.

Prosecutors have also launched a probe by summoning people, such as Tsai, to pin down what exactly happened.

Before Friday's questioning, Tsai had been summoned by prosecutors three times since the case surfaced, but was released without bail. Prosecutors decided to summon Tsai again on Friday, while an investigation team launched a raid on Tsai's and Wang's homes and went through documents from related government agencies about the case on the same day.

Prosecutors have taken into custody Tsai's email on his cell phone and other data in his notebook computer for further investigations.

Citing sources from the investigation team, the media reports said that prosecutors suspected that Tsai ignored the U.S. probe into the money laundering case and failed to deal with the case, and that his inaction has led Mega Bank to suffer such a large financial punishment.

According to the reports, Mega Financial received a report on the money laundering case from the U.S. authorities in February and Tsai had full knowledge about the case, but failed to take action.

Tsai quit from the chairman post in March citing health reasons.

The reports said that prosecutors believe that Tsai had violated the Banking Act in breach of trust.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel